If you like boxing, slick crime thrillers, cute boys, watching loan sharks get beat up, or all of the above, then the new Korean show on Netflix, Bloodhounds, is for you.
The boxing-tinged crime series delivers on what it promises from the beginning: cute boys punching… for justice. Kim Geon-woo (Woo Do-hwan) is a quiet sweetheart of a boxing prodigy who would do anything for his mother and is competing in a prestigious amateur boxing tournament. After easily dispatching his first few opponents, he is matched up against showboating Hong Woo-jin (Lee Sang-yi) in the championship bout.
After a great fight, the two go out to dinner together and become fast friends. Their relationship is the anchor of the series, as they quickly go from opponents to ride-or-die buddies who bring out the best in each other, forming an unstoppable team as they help each other out in a punishing world.
Geon-woo’s mother is in dire financial straits, having been conned by a group of sinister loan sharks. So the two new friends set out to make it right, earning money as bodyguards for the one loan organization that does not charge interest, all the while investigating the evil group behind the scheme that nearly ruined Kim’s family.
The narrative is straightforwardly compelling, with easily hateable villains (having characters you really want to see get beat up is a must) and a plot propelled equally by their schemes and our heroes’ desires. The leads’ relationship is great, with both actors effectively evoking purehearted loyalty and sincerity that makes their fast friendship read as true. But it’s Bloodhounds’ action that takes the first episode to the next level.
Woo Do-hwan in particular excels in his boxing motions as Geon-woo, bobbing and weaving while making and closing space to his opponents, picking his spots before delivering calculating and punishing blows. It all adds to the immersion of Bloodhounds’ fight scenes, which feel like real slugfests.
Bloodhounds makes a pretty good case for alternatives to the American approach to achieving dynamic fight choreography - gapping, or teaching the actors how to move in and out of danger pic.twitter.com/ymz55HHCqL— Pete Lee (@kungfupete) June 12, 2023
As is the case in most great action storytelling, the leads’ fighting styles also reflect their personalities. Geon-woo is quiet, and will be the first to tell you he’s not good with words. His fighting style reflects this; he’s a defensive counter puncher who doesn’t swing a lot, but hits hard when he does. Meanwhile, the loud and brash Woo-jin is constantly showing off while he fights, and also punches more regularly and wildly than his more reserved friend.
Details like that make Bloodhounds stand out as not just another generic action thriller. The lovable characters bring you into the story, but it’s the quality of the action that makes you stay. It all combines for one of the most exciting new shows in 2023, and another new boxing-centric Korean action banger.